The Magic House

December 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm

When I was little, there was an amazing place I loved to visit. A giant old mansion, full of hidden passages, a three-story spiral slide and crazy science experiments! We knew it simply as “The Magic House.” And it was one of the first and still one of the best hands-on science museums I have ever been to.

This awesome place is still around, only it’s been expanded and grown for the last 25 years, and is now known as The Magic House – The St. Louis Children’s Museum. We managed to fly out and visit the grandparents in St Louis for a few days after Christmas, and now that G is old enough to run around, I thought he might enjoy a trip to the Magic House.

And he did!

G is still pretty young for a lot of the exhibits and activities at the Magic House. But they have added a special small area for toddlers, so we spent an hour exploring the little ball pits, the tiny habitrail-like play set, the little kitchen rooms, and the big mirrors, knobs, buttons and blinking lights in the Baby Zone.

G loved an area where kids play in a long series of water-filled sinks. I was happy to have a change of clothes in his diaper bag. Another spot had a room full of light switches that he could turn on and off. There were exhibits with huge, weird musical instruments that he wanted to explore, and a pioneer-based play area where he spent half an hour finding fake potatoes in the sand and carrying them up to random people.

It was really fun seeing G get out and explore the Magic House, in much the same way I did as a kid. It will be even better when he’s old enough to really enjoy most of the activities! Though, after seeing this face, I’m not sure anything could be better than a ball pit and a giant mirror!

Have you had a chance to share a special place with friends or family this year? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

Eagle’s Nest Open Space

December 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm

The days before Christmas are quiet in a college town. The streets empty, and the population disperses. For years, our group of young friends has traveled to distant family for the holidays, but this year, with new family members popping up, many of us stuck closer to our own homes.

This is why we found ourselves at the sunny trailhead for Eagle’s Nest Open Space just a few days before Christmas, with Doug and pregnant Liz, our own baby and dog, and a plan for enjoying mountain views and blue skies.

Home on the Range

Since G was born, Mark and I have started to appreciate the local trails and open spaces surrounding our little Northern Colorado town. We used to drive right past these for high peaks and tall granite climbs, but we’ve recently learned that we were missing out on some great hikes by doing so. The tall peaks of the Rockies are dramatic and stunning, but there is a quiet beauty in the wooded foothills, hidden plains rivers, and local sandstone.

Frozen river

My goofball boys!

Eagle’s Nest Open Space is located about 40 minutes north of our house in Livermore, CO. The 755 acres offer 5 miles of hiking trails, beautiful views of the Laramie foothills, and access to the North Fork of the Cache La Poudre river. The area is named for the large rock formation that stands sentinel over the river valley, and has (supposedly) been home to nesting Golden Eagles for over 100 years.

Hiking in the afternoon

Mark, G and I were all fighting off colds (as we have been all fall and winter) and Doug and Liz were being super adventurous at 26 weeks of pregnancy to even come out and meet us, so we opted to forgo the long hike, and stick to the first 3.4 mile loop.

Even though the ground was covered in 3-4 inches of snow back at our house, these high-plains trails were well melted, and our hike was done almost entirely on solid dirt. The winter southern sun warmed us up nicely for the afternoon, casting long shadows on the hills and posting sage brush and yucca in stark relief on the hillsides.

The doggies play on a frozen Poudre river

G tried out his new REI snow suit, which might have been overkill for such a mild day, but he seemed comfortable enough. He zonked in the backpack about 20 minutes into the hike, and had a nice afternoon nap as we plodded along the hillsides. He slept though our break on the banks of the frozen river, so didn’t get his usual chance to get out and wander around on his own two feet until we were back at the cars. For sitting in a backpack for 2.5 hours, he did really well though, only getting cranky at the very end of our hike.

G took his afternoon nap in the backpack

It was a beautiful day, and a really lovely hike. The trails were nearly deserted, only one horse rider and a handful of other people crossed our path during the afternoon. These wide-open spaces just south of the Wyoming boarder glowed in the low afternoon sun, and I sucked up every moment of the light, the air, and the freedom of those hills.

Views from the trail

Bouldering at Rotary

November 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Ok, ok, we’re not climbing as much these days. I’ve actually been pretty proud of the amount of time we have gotten on the rock this year, and the fact that we’ve managed to visit most of our favorite places. With the baby in tow, we’ve climbed trad in Vedauwoo, sported it up at Shelf Road and in Estes Park, and even gotten in a bit of bouldering on the historic sandstone at Rotary Park.

Evening at Rotary

Ok, well, Mark and I did a little bouldering. G tried out eating, licking, running on, and falling off the boulders.

G relaxing and sucking on some rocks

The bouldering at Rotary is notoriously difficult, and Mark and I are absolutely out of shape. So, we mostly tossed down the pad and tried a few moves of a traverse across the bottom of the wall, the Bolt-Wall chimney, and a traverse across the lower left side of the bolt-wall dihedral.

Bouldering at Rotary

Playing on the crash pad

It was a beautiful November evening, and very nice to get out on the rock. These days, I’m dreaming about the snow melting and more fun trips in the spring!

Family portrait at Rotary Park

What I Learned From Little G This Year

October 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm

It’s been a little over a year since the Great G-bini joined our family. I wanted to write this post around his first birthday, but clearly, I am slacking in the blogging department lately.

We have a friend and neighbor who loves asking me what I have learned from G each time she sees us. It’s such an interesting question, and she always makes me stop to think and appreciate some of the more subtle joys of having a baby.

G is learning new things constantly. It is amazing what new skills he can pick up and lessons he can learn every day. I have really enjoyed and been astounded by how much he has changed and grown in just one year.

And I know Mark and I have changed and grown quite a bit in that time. We love this little kid more than words can say, for everything that he is, was, and will be, and every amazing moment he has brought us.

Happy Baby

So, here are the top 10 things I have learned from Little G this year:

1. Dirt is awesome!
2. Sleeping may look easy, but it’s actually a difficult skill to master. It takes work, patience, and sacrifice to keep healthy sleep habits.
3. Everything should be experienced with as many senses as possible. Remember to watch, touch, listen, smell AND taste everything!

Evening at Rotary

4. Some things don’t have reasons, causes or answers. They just are.
5. Skills that may seem simple to you can be the most difficult thing in the world to somebody else.
6. Perspectives can change rapidly. And to get the most out of them, they should change often!
7. It is surprising what you can eat without any teeth.


8. Sometimes doing nothing is the hardest thing in the world.
9. Our basic needs are so simple – warm food, a safe place to sleep, and love. Focus on those, and everybody is happy.
10. You don’t need hair or teeth to be really, really, really, really ridiculously good-looking.


Fall Colors on West White Pine Mountain

October 1, 2011 at 2:02 pm

This post is coming, ummm, three months late? I should probably just admit it to myself: real life is killing my blog.

Aspens on fire

And when it comes to sharing photos and little write-ups about our trips, Facebook seems to be the easiest place to do it these days. But, some hikes we do (like this one) are just so nice, that I’d like to put them out on the interwebs for everybody to enjoy.

Ready to get walking after a long car ride

So, last October, Mark and I packed up the family and went for an afternoon hike at our favorite spot to view fall colors in Colorado: West White Pine Mountain road. This is a 1.5 mile hike to a saddle and on to the summit of a local little peak. The “trail” is really a 4×4 road and we were passed by probably nearly a dozen trucks and jeeps driving up and down the steep, rocky road that afternoon.

Mark, G and Liv hiking up the hill

View from the mountainside

I think we hit the peak of local color just right. There were quite a few green leaves still hanging around, but they were absolutely out numbered by shining, golden aspens.

G spent the whole hike up the mountain in Mark’s backpack going “Ooooh woooow! Ooooh woooow!” Granted, those are two of the only 5 or so words that he knew how to say at the time, but I think he genuinely enjoyed the bright yellow trees and an afternoon in the mountains.

G enjoying the ride

As we all did!

Kate and G enjoy an afternoon snack

Fall Climbing on Punk Rock

September 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm


This is going to be a short post to show off some fun pictures.

G playing with climbing gear

Despite the lack of evidence on this blog, Mark and I have gotten out for a bit of climbing here and there this fall. The changing seasons have brought more than the usual amount of illness to our doorstep, but on warm, dry weekends, when everybody’s healthy, we head out to the rocks.

Mark Concentrating

These photos all came from a sunny Sunday in mid-September. The theory had been to repeat the awesome afternoon of baby-full climbing of July, but the Bishops’ didn’t quite make it, and we got to bring Bruce a long for some fun this time!

Bruce kicking butt on a tricky 5.9 to start the day

We spent the afternoon on Punk Rock, this time, and climbed four of the routes there. I’m not sure which now, but they ranged in grades from a fun, overhanging 5.8, to tricky 5.9s and a thin, fingery 5.11 that Mark joyfully flashed.

Mark Concentrating

Hooray for sunny climbing in the mountains with good friends!

Walking the Steamboat Hot Springs

September 14, 2011 at 11:54 am

It is estimated that there are nearly 150 hot springs in Steamboat Springs. The area is perforated with spouts of hot, bubbling water, seeping up from deep below the surface of the earth. In the 1800’s, these warm springs drew travelers from all over, who bathed in and enjoyed the unique “flavor” of each spring. There are seven or eight springs in downtown Steamboat that have interesting historical significance, and a suggested walking tour that takes you to each one.

Map of the suggested tour route

The tour, technically, begins at Heart Spring, which is the warm water source for the municipal hot springs complex on the south end of downtown. Early in the week, Mark, Bruce, G and I all went for an afternoon swim at the Old Town Hot Springs. It looked like an incredible facility, but because of the lull between seasons, they were cleaning out most of the pools when we stopped in.

So, we started our walking tour at Spring #2 – Iron Spring. Which was a very non-picturesque algae-filled cistern on the north side of town. According to Colorado’s Hot Springs, this icky pool of irony water was considered a tonic for “ailments of body and will.”

Our starting point, Iron Spring, was not very pretty

The third spring was Soda Spring. Once a very popular spot for making lemonade with the naturally carbonated water, but local highway construction disrupted the water’s flow. Now, it’s a nice gazebo, with a hole in the middle of the floor and a commemorative sign.

Soda Spring is historic, but now just a hole in concrete

Down the grassy knoll just outside the gazebo, we finally found some pretty springs in a more natural state. Hot Sulfur spring smelled strongly, but warm, light blue water bubbled up into a pool surrounded by white-coated rocks and grasses. The water ran out of the rock-rimmed pool and down into the nearby Yampa river, leaving a white-sulfur caked trail in its wake.

Sulphur Springs is beautiful, with a powerful odor

A short walk across the river landed us on the shores of Black Sulfur Spring. I thought this one was really cool. The water is actually black. It’s not tarry or muddy or much thicker than normal water. Just completely opaque.

Black Sulphur spring was dark and menacing

And right next door to that one is the town’s namesake – Steamboat Spring. The clear blue water in this one was such a gorgeous color, it was the prettiest spring so far.

Steamboat Springs - the town's namesake

From Colorado’s Hot Springs again:

“That spring and the town were named by three French trappers in the 1820s who had wandered up the Yampa River and heard a throaty, periodic chug. After months in the wilderness, they concluded that they’d hit a major river with paddle-wheel steamboats. … Later, geologists explained that the chugging sound was created when the superheated water and steam hit an underground rock chamber. The flows were compressed until the buildup forced the steam out with a chug.”

Unfortunately, the bedrock in the area was disturbed when the railroad was built nearby, and the chugging stopped in 1908.

Steamboat Springs

We all scrambled down the rocky shore of the river for a bit to find Terrace Springs, which flowed out of a marbled rock cave, over a large mineral formation and down into the Yampa River.

Terrace Springs makes a cool little waterfall

After this one, we all decided to skip Lithia Spring (“Lithia as in lithium, used in a mood-leveling drug and considered highly effective for manic depression.”) and hike up the hill to find Cave Spring. After nearly 45 minutes of wandering the steep hillside, and never finding more than wiffs of distant sulfur, we gave up and hiked back to town for lunch. It was a fun day, and we all learned a lot. We learned about the history of the town, the geology of hot springs, and that we should carry more water and sunscreen with us, even on short, in-town, walks.

Mark and G above Steamboat

Fishcreek Falls

September 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Our week in Steamboat Springs with Mark’s family coincided perfectly with the last week of summer. The leaves were not, quite, changing yet, but the smell and feel of fall was in the air.

G, Mark and Bruce

We hiked out to Fishcreek Falls on our first full day in the area. The parking area was covered in signs saying the area was closed for “tree spraying,” but the lot was full of cars and people were coming and going on both trails.

Fishcreek Falls

We walked out to the overlook, taking numerous shots of the falls along the way. I worried at the last overlook that I could smell wiffs of insecticide, and being the neurotic mom that I am, I suggested we head home and come back later in the week.

Fishcreek Falls

(The above shot is my favorite of the whole set. In fact, I think its one of my favorite photos from the last few years.)

Later in the week, we did come back. We walked the quarter mile down to a historic bridge over Fish Creek, and enjoyed the view of the falls from below.

Fishcreek Falls

Kathy even scrambled out on the rocks with me while I used my awesome new neutral density filter to shoot the falls, the creek, and anything near by.

Cataract in the stream

It is such a pretty area. I’m so glad we had a chance to share it with the family.

Mark, G and Kate on the trail

Jeff and Kathy enjoying a fall day